So this was quite a way to kick off 2021.
I’ve had this book from the library since the end of November, and for one reason or another, I kept putting it off and just renewing my loan as I went through other books for book clubs and buddy reads. I guess it was the fact that I finally need to give this back that forced me to sit down and read, and I am so glad.
First things first, I saw that a few people have already reviewed this last year, so the synopsis should not come as a surprise to anyone, but here are my two cents.
My Dark Vanessa is an extremely unsettling book that follows Vanessa Wye through 2 different periods in her life: her in 2017 at 32-years-old, and her life from 2000 onwards until the 2 timelines collide. It discusses with startling straightforwardness the relationship she had with her English teacher at 15 and her difficulty re-framing this as abuse amid further assault allegations against him by other students as the Me Too movement gains traction and gives victims the strength and platform to confront their abusers.
I found this book to be tough to read. Not because it is bad, but because it is supposed to be uncomfortable, and it delivers masterfully. As an adult woman myself, I can see the subtle ways Jacob Strane targets and manipulates Vanessa when she is a young girl and grooms her into a sexual relationship with him, and it is terrifying. But I also remember being 14-years-old and equally naive. I was completely sure that I was a grown-up when I had a similar (though far shorter and with a lot less far-reaching consequences) experience with the 26-year-old trainer at a spa hotel I went to with my cousin for a week.
I didn’t have the capacity at 14 to understand what was happening to me, and Vanessa Wye most certainly doesn’t. And she gets in so deep; it wrecks her life. The consequences of what happened to her impact her in so many ways that it somehow becomes the main driver in her story, maybe even her life. And it is hard for her to deal with it all, and it was hard for me to watch her go through it. Because even at 32, she is still stuck in this no-longer-a-relationship and is dependent on Strane in ways that are so extremely unsettling.
I don’t want to spoil it for anyone, so I won’t go into details. But if you think you can handle reading something on this subject matter, you should. I would give you a trigger warning for some extremely descriptive, extremely uncomfortable (as they should be) scenes of a sexual nature.
The ending was somehow unexpected to me if I can say that when there weren’t many places this story could go. The outcome of the situation itself was definitely unexpected, and the story’s ending felt like it came too soon. However, while I don’t know if it provided enough closure to me or the character, I see why the author chose to end it where she did, and I respect her choice.
This is not an easy book to read, but I am glad it was written. I hope more people read it.